It’s May 4th, 2023, and the Texas Rangers sit 1.5 games above the Angels for first place in the AL West. Texas has an 18-12 record which is their best start since the 2013 season when they finished with a 91-72 record.
Despite Corey Seager, Jacob deGrom, and Mitch Garver all being on the IL for an extended period of time, Texas still finds itself playing good baseball and atop the West.
Let’s take a deep dive into the many factors that have propelled the Rangers to their red-hot start.
After watching countless Rangers top prospects fall short of MLB stardom, the start of the season that Josh Jung is having is like a breath of fresh air to Rangers fans.
Jung was just named the American League’s rookie of the month for April, and come the end of the season; we could be talking about a Rookie of the Year award. A Texas Ranger has not won the Rookie of the Year award since 2010 when Neftali` Feliz broke onto the scene in 2010, posting 40 saves with a 2.73 ERA.
Josh Jung is slashing .275/.325/.541 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI. Not to mention the much-improved defense that he is playing this season.
Duran Duran Duran
When Corey Seager went down with a hamstring injury on April 12th, it looked like the Rangers were going to take a massive hit…. enter Ezequiel Duran.
Duran may be the quietest .300 or better hitter in all of baseball; coming into play on Friday, Duran is hitting .324. After playing his way onto the team when camp broke, the former Yankees prospect is playing his way to staying on the team when the likes of Seager and Garver come back here shortly.
When Corey Seager comes back in roughly a week, he’s going to take over the starting shortstop role back from Duran. However, look for Bruce Bochy to get Duran some playing time in the outfield and possibly at DH.
Improved Pitching Staff
Not many times this year have the Rangers been overmatched on the mound.
Texas has a 3.74 team ERA which is good for 10th in all of baseball. Compare that to last season, where Texas had a 4.22 Team ERA which was 22nd in all of baseball.
Some issues still need to be solved in the bullpen, but overall the staff is looking much better. Before Wednesday’s 12-7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Bruce Bochy said that Jose Leclerc would not be getting the closing opportunities going forward. That job will be going to Will Smith, who has a 1.69 ERA in 11 appearances.
Heim is Him
After catching for much of the season last year, Jonah Heim slowed down towards the end of the year. This season the Rangers’ switch-hitting catcher is performing amongst the best backstops in baseball.
Coming into play on Friday, Heim is slashing .294/.371/.588 with 6 home runs and 23 RBI. There is no doubt that Heim has established himself as the backstop of the future for the Rangers.
The Rangers will hit the road to take on the Angels this weekend for the beginning set of their 3-city West Coast swing. Game one of the series with the Halos will be Friday at 8:38 PM CST.